The bill was the subject of a last-minute bipartisan compromise that excised most of the more controversial proposals, from lifting all restrictions on the transfer of Gitmo detainees to new sanctions against Iran, in order to make sure the bill could pass before the new year. The bill also continues funding for the war in Afghanistan and contains a small raise for servicemembers.
In his statement announcing that the bill had been signed, Obama criticized Congress for continuing to bar the transfer of Gitmo detainees to U.S. soil for any reason, including trial or imprisonment. While suggesting the restrictions are an unconstitutional infringement on his powers as president, he pledged to “implement them in a manner that avoids the constitutional conflict.”
“The executive branch must have the authority to determine when and where to prosecute Guantanamo detainees, based on the facts and circumstances of each case and our national security interests. For decades, Republican and Democratic administrations have successfully prosecuted hundreds of terrorists in Federal court. Those prosecutions are a legitimate, effective, and powerful tool in our efforts to protect the Nation. Removing that tool from the executive branch does not serve our national security interests. .”
Nevertheless, current law now allows Obama to empty the detention camp of about half of its population–if he chooses to do so.